November 18, 2010

2011: No credible polls without politicians observing rules – RMG


By Kenneth Ehigiator
A coalition of 45 non-governmental organisations, NGOs, Rights Monitoring Group, RMG, has canvassed deployment of the military to assist the police in providing security for both voters and voting materials.  National Coordinator of the group, Mr. Olufemi Akinbule Aduwo, was a member of INEC Anambra Governorship Rerun Election Observation Board. Excerpts:

Do you think that Jonathan, being a participant in the forthcoming election, will be able to conduct credible elections?

A lot of people have raised this issue. What gives people this impression is what I don’t understand.   If  Jonathan did not contest and backs someone, who says that he cannot put his person there and still be involved in the affairs of government at the same time?

When he appointed INEC commissioners,  people raised eyebrows that they were card-carrying members of PDP and he withdraw them even when they are credible. I mean he is a listening person and he has shown to the world that with the caliber of people that he  has appointed in INEC, he will not get involved.

What is your take on impressions that the constitutional amendment issue could hamper the polls?

I mentioned this in one of my previous interviews that I am very skeptical of this arrangement of the National Assembly.  This amendment would have taken place a long time ago before it came to the issue of ego, where some people are saying that Jonathan cannot sign and others are saying he can sign. For me, I agree that the amendment is an Act of Parliament and that he must sign it before it becomes law.

Do you think INEC can deliver a good election that Nigerians would be proud of?

There is nothing INEC can do. In 2008, I was one of the only two Nigerians who went for the UK election, I was in Ghana in 2009, I was in US in 2008 and I was also the only one who followed some INEC commissioners to the US.

INEC, if it likes let it employ 1,000  Jegas, I have told Jega he cannot bring free and fair election to Nigeria if politicians don’t follow the rules or play according to the rules of the game.

For example, in some of these elections, the polling agents will tell you ‘my party chairman said where we lose I should not sign the document.’ And the electoral law says the polling agent must counter-sign the document. How can Jega solve this problem?

The former DG of SSS said the level of ammunition today in Nigeria is more than what they have in Somalia. Have we been able to curb the development?   The answer is no.   Can Jega arrest anybody on the day of election?

For example, in Kogi State, a man in police uniform was arrested in an attempt to snatch a ballot box, he was shown on NTA, we wrote (former Police IG) Okiro  10 letters, asking when are you going to prosecute this man?  Today, where is the man?
Was that man sent by Jega?

These are the issues we are talking about, it is not the issue of Jega, it is not the issue of electoral commissioners.  On the day of the election, Jega will not go beyond two polling stations by helicopter.

Based on all these issues you have raised, what advice can you can, as an observer, give to INEC to enable it wade through these challenges?

In UK, I discovered that all the polling agents are adults of 55 years, educated and very enlightened people and the electoral laws give role to the polling agents. Let INEC see these polling agents as a kind of past officials of INEC, train them and pay them some little money and give them rules that they should be above 40 years.

If you are a party, you already know the party agent that will represent you at the polling stations. We are agreed that all the ballots are going to be counted at the polling station and they are, as the previous ones. All the previous elections had always been counted at the polling stations.

I am appealing to the government that this time around, let’s allow the military, armed soldiers, to guard the polling stations. Some people are saying ‘no, the constitution did not give them a civil duty.’

All these police at the polling stations don’t carry guns, people that want to come and rig elections are armed, are we so stupid?

If soldiers can vote in their barracks, why can’t they be called upon to assist the police check electoral violence to ensure that there is free and fair election?  Besides, the new twist in the world today is civil-military relations, a situation which allows the military to participate in maintenance of internal law and order.

The election in America in 2008, the national guard was at the airports guarding against terrorism and all that to make sure that the election was not disrupted. Why can’t we use the army to guard the polling stations with arms? If we do that, we will get near to perfection but if we are using the police with walking sticks, with no arms to come and guard polling stations, we are wasting our energy, it won’t work.

Have you sold these ideas to Jega and his commissioners in INEC?

Yes, in fact, not only that I have mentioned this in my interviews, we have written a letter the INEC chairman, we are going to send a letter to the president by next week (this week).